the stellar dust had settled in the deepest and darkest crevices of the earth and when breathed with soul, it would surface in form of gold and silver and all other metals humanity held so precious. The ancient history of such elements could be traced by the souls they possessed. At that time, the origins of gold had been ascertained; that the stars that conspired to destroy the earth had in fact left a mark on its face for future generations in form of gold buried deep inside the folds of the earth, which later on man excavated to feed its greed.
when grandfather had whispered in my ear to follow him to the tree at the end of the road. I had held his warm hand in mine, our fingers entwined like the crutch-less branches of the old tree we were approaching. The musky smell of fresh soil and green leaves still prevails in my veranda. Upon reaching the tree he put his stick against its thick bark that was as wrinkled as him and sat down under its cool shade. The sun was touching the horizon and I vividly remember silently praying to God to delay the fast approaching dusk. Had I known what the night was to bring, I would have prayed for the waning sun to extinguish all that ever lived, including my existence.
“The tree smells of rot, doesn’t it?”, my grandfather said in a frail voice.
“Do you know what happens when a tree dies?”, he inquired. And as if he already knew my answer, he continued “A tree never dies, my child.” And with that he removed his parched hand from mine and placed both his hands on the tree trunk slowly whispering “my love, my love”.
As he closed his eyes, the sun breathed its last upon us for the day.
The starry night sky was a solace. Silence enveloped her and pitch black darkness shielded her from the outside world. She laid back, imagining herself in a bubble, lighter than her existence, lighter than air, rising up, up and up. Higher and higher into the deepest distances of the cosmos, floating inside, she was serenading herself with words that swayed out of the tip of her pen. She was engraving the thin air with her mystical words. Words that threaded together to make sentences; sentences that layered upon one another to form stories – stories of bygone days, stories of the past, the history, the ancient, the timeless, the mystical.
The noise was deafening.
“My character can’t be human here”, she thought and tore off the page, crumpled it into a ball and threw it into her half unzipped backpack.
She looked around at the maze of concrete jungle surrounding her. She was not overwhelmed. She thought of the lackluster city that contained her mere, futile existence. The grey bench was still wet from last night’s showers and the somber clouds overhead provided no inspiration. Her pen squeaked like nails scratched on a wall and the tree in front was a grim reminder of autumn that had overstayed its visit.
“What if I make my character suicidal?”
She pondered over the possibility of writing a short story, and giving an even shorter life to her character.
“He commits suicide by hanging to a tree outside his childhood home.”
She began writing.
She looked at the naked tree in front of her.
She entitled the story:
“The Tree of Loss”
- Which of the two stories is more coherent in its form and style?
- Do the two stories present an obvious withdrawal from the topic?
For my character sketch I chose the guy in the khaki shirt:
“He solemnly put his head against the window and closed his eyes, reminiscing days past. His heavy built shoulders heaved up and down as he breathed loudly, giving an air of repressed superiority. He was wearing a khaki textured shirt that reminded him of his long lost son – lost on a foreign land, fighting a foreign war. His hair were held back in a pink band, a careless knot that he hurried through to get out of the two by four situation but the smell had distinctly followed him – a rustic smell that reminds one of basements, attics and cooped up corners of the house that one avoids on purpose. He looked around at the somber day that lay ahead of him, let out a deep sigh, and closed his eyes so that for a brief moment he could, without any excuse, journey back into the past with no strings attached to the present or the future.
- Is this coherent?
- I doubt the continuity of this paragraph, which ultimately compromises the character.
- Does my portrayal of the character make him human?
I feel like American Literature is out there, deliberately, just to antagonize me. Reading through Richard Wilbur’s Marginalia, the influx of logic (or rather illogical), useless pseudo-intellectual phrases, and an apparent lack of beauty and depth coupled with ill-structured stanzas and a pretense of philosophical thought all ploy against my very faculty of reasoning to delve into the mystifying beauty of English Poetry. The poem in its entirety is conspiring against all I believe in. How am I ever supposed to indite a critical “appreciation” of this 18-verse monstrosity? Am I being thick? Or is this really unnatural to comprehend? “Textile scum”? Whatever am I supposed to make of this compound word?
Things concentrate at the edges; the pond-surface
Is bourne to fish and man and it is spread
In textile scum and damask light, on which
The lily-pads are set; and there are also
Inlaid ruddy twigs, becalmed pine-leaves,
Air-baubles, and the chain mail of froth.
Descending into sleep (as when the night-lift
Falls past a brilliant floor) we glimpse a sublime
Décor and hear, perhaps, a complete music,
But this evades us, as in the night meadows
The crickets’ million roundsong dies away
From all advances, rising in every distance.
Our riches are centrifugal; men compose
Daily, unwittingly, their final dreams,
And those are our own voices whose remote
Consummate chorus rides on the whirlpool’s rim,
Past which we flog our sails, toward which we drift,
Plying our trades, in hopes of a good drowning.
American Literature is an admixture of obscurity and ambiguity. Their poetry, even more so. This is my wild guess at the first verse “Things concentrate at the edges”:
- The word ‘concentration’ has a two-fold meaning where in its human sense it means focusing on, giving full attention to, and deliberating, consciously and subconsciously as we do in our everyday life. In its visceral sense, the word means exerting pressure on, stressing, or saturation.
- The word ‘things’ could mean the concrete objects around us or the abstract emotions, feelings, thoughts, intentions, motives. In its former sense the poet personifies the concrete objects around us by giving them the faculty to ‘concentrate’.
- ‘Edge’ implies a margin (hence the title Marginalia), a boundary line, a perimeter that bounds a certain concrete or abstract object.
- Marginalia might refer to the separation of duality that exists in our life in varying forms: awareness and unawareness, life and death, permanence and temperance, and of course what is inside the ‘edge’ and that which lies outside.
I feel there is a faded coherence in the aforementioned guesses. I just can’t connect the dots for which a plausible reason is my sheer disgust for the way the ideas of the verse are presented, and also of course the question “What in the name of all that is considered POETRY is the poet trying to say?” I do try my best not to let my prejudice against American Literature come in the way but one cannot help it.